‘You want a lawsuit with that?’TM
Not long ago, while relaxing at home with take-out pad thai and a rather inferior red, Folklaw’s attention was caught by a TV ad. More precisely, a very tiny part of a TV ad. At the very end of a promo piece from the good folks at Burger King, a little white speck could be seen at the top right of the company’s slogan, “Oh Yeah”. At first, the wine was the suspected culprit, but on closer inspection, yes, it was true. “Oh Yeah” had a tiny ‘TM’ superscript — it was trademarked.
Now, Folklaw has been kicking around the legal world long enough to know that these days pretty much anything is up for trademark or copyright protection — colours, smells, sounds etc etc. These be good times for IP lawyers. But hang on a bit: surely “Oh Yeah” is pushing it a bit? Are those two little words so distinctive as to justify a claim on them. Apparently so, and we doff our caps to BK’s lawyers for pushing that one through. And does the registration apply only to the written, or could it somehow be extended to the spoken word too? (If so, on weekend mornings, Folklaw’s neighbours would frequently be infringers of trademark.)
That said, we always like watching a legal scrap heat up here. So, what of the prospect of a lawsuit when some individual gets busted for using the words “Oh Yeah” inappropriately? We’re lovin’ it.
The jury’s out ... or should be
Folklaw usually keeps its eyes on legal developments in the UK, which is after all the birthplace of our common law tradition. However, just recently, Sunday Times columnist Simon Jenkins suggested — to put it lightly — that all was not well with the jury system back in the Old Dart.
“In March last year the 21-month [London Underground] Jubilee Line fraud case collapsed after some of the jury went on strike,” Jenkins lamented. “The court had sat for just 40 per cent of that period. For the rest of the time lawyers argued with each other, went on holiday, got pregnant or took time off for ‘research’. The jury had to be discharged despite Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, offering to bribe them with £200 a day to stay, or four times the going rate ... When the jurors pointed out that the barristers were getting up to £3,000 a day, the judge declared the revelation a contempt of court. By the time the relieved defendants left scot-free, £14m had been spent on legal aid and £44m in other costs.” Hmmm, it doesn’t sound too good when you put it that way.
“I have been a juryman three times and the experience, although rich in civic insight, has been tedious beyond belief,” Jenkins grumbled. “ The best that its defenders (mostly lawyers) can say for it is that some people like it and ‘juries probably get it right most of the time’. Anyone who ran a hospital, a school, a railway or an army on such a basis would be thought insane.”
Ministers for health, education, transport and defence, take note!
Downside outweighs the benefits
A convicted thief, who went on the run after being charged with theft, has been sentenced to 18 months in jail — after hiding under his mother’s floorboards for four years.
The Czechoslovakian, 25-year-old Ondrej Hlavac from Jirikov na Decinsku, was sentenced to 18 months in jail in his absence.
Police officers visited Hlavac’s parents several times, but were always told they had no contact with their son. However, Hlavac was finally freed from his ruse when police saw him trying to slide down a hole in the kitchen floor, when they made a follow up visit. His mother confessed to letting her son hide in a disused cellar — a linoleum covered trap door had been fitted to conceal his sanctuary.
Now, if you ask Folklaw, Hlavac wasn’t very bright. Poor sod, if he’d just gone quietly when he was caught, he would have been out of jail more than two years ago. Instead, he’s sentenced himself to four years of not straying far from his hiding spot and having to seek refuge in what Folklaw imagines to be a damp, dark, hole whenever anyone came around … plus his 18 months in jail. Perhaps he should have thought that one out a little more clearly.
An amusing tit bit from the US legal blogger Opinionistas last week, when she heard that all legal associates in New York would be receiving a US$20,000 raise. The former associate had recently given up her role in a top NYC law firm to focus her attentions on writing a book. But the other day she received a call from “one of multiple friends” at a “white shoe NYC firm”, which made her question her decision to choose life over work.
When asked by her friend what she thought of the pay rise, she replied: “What I Want To Say: ‘What do I think of it? Well, every time I hear about it, my first instinct is to immediately toss my body in front of the nearest express train. I think about how you, with a similar or sometimes identical academic background to mine, are now adding another twenty grand to the obscene sum you already take home each year. I wonder what low-grade smack I was mainlining when I chose to turn down those white shoe offers as a summer associate because I wanted to do employment law and have a ‘better lifestyle.’
“I think about all the shit that’s been slung in my direction over the past eleven months, both on the internet and in person. I think about how deeply I’ve disappointed close family members since January, how many people I’ve insulted and alienated, how I have no Goddamn clue where my next pay check is coming from, and how many times I’ve closed my eyes and sincerely wished that I had never heard of blogs. That’s what I think of it’.”
But, what she actually says to her friend is “I think it’s cool. Congrats. So are you out celebrating?”
The friend’s reply offers an insight into the lives of those working in some of those law firms. “No, I’m at the printers. My deal is closing, so I’ll probably be here ‘til three or four. In the morning, that is. And tomorrow and the next day as well.”
When she hears this, our legal blogger says all that “doubt, fear and remorse washes away”, and she wants to thank her caller. But, what she actually says is: “That sucks, sorry to hear it. Give me a call when you have a free night, we’ll grab a drink. On you, of course.”
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